Offweek news of note 2006-05-03

* Germain duo dominant but Reutimann and Sprague are close * Crafton, Bobby Hamilton Racing involved in Charlotte charity efforts DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 1, 2006) -- No arguing that Todd Bodine (No. 30 Lumber Liquidators Toyota) and Ted ...

* Germain duo dominant but Reutimann and Sprague are close

* Crafton, Bobby Hamilton Racing involved in Charlotte charity efforts

DAYTONA BEACH, Fla. (May 1, 2006) -- No arguing that Todd Bodine (No. 30 Lumber Liquidators Toyota) and Ted Musgrave (No. 9 Team ASE/Germain Toyota) have established themselves as the drivers to beat for the 2006 NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series championship.

Todd and Ted -- T 'n' T -- are a dynamite combination who ran one-two in last weekend's Missouri/Illinois Dodge Dealers Ram Tough 200 at Gateway International Raceway.

The victory was Bodine's second in the past three races and fifth in his last eight starts dating to November at Texas Motor Speedway. He holds a 12-point championship advantage over Germain Motor Co. partner Musgrave, who is perfect in top-five finishes in the year's first five races.

History shows, however, that the championship battle ebbs and flows over the 10-month, 25-race schedule and this season should be no exception.

That's why Bodine isn't comfortable despite his early domination.

"No, you can't rest on that," said Bodine. "There are too many good trucks here."

The 42-year-old New York native doesn't have to look twice in his rearview mirror to find some pretty formidable competition. Besides Musgrave, the defending series champion, 2004 Raybestos Rookie of the Year David Reutimann (No. 17 Team Tundra Toyota) is hitting on all eight cylinders in his third year in the series.

And Jack Sprague (No. 60 Con-Way Freight Toyota) is contending for a possible fourth NASCAR Craftsman Truck championship.

Sprague, coming off a sub-par season, is courting Victory Lane and that's never pleasant news for his rivals. He ranks fifth -- his best standing since the eighth race of the 2004 season.

Reutimann, who has yet to finish higher than 13th in points, led much of Gateway's event. On older tires, the Florida short track graduate and third generation competitor showed the maturity of a front-runner.

With 14 laps to go, Reutimann didn't exactly roll over for Bodine and Musgrave. But he recognized that a succession of good finishes is the best route to a title.

"In my rookie year, I would have blocked and I would have been in the fence," said Reutimann, 36, whose finish moved the Darrell Waltrip-owned team to third in the standings. "I've matured a lot and I'm racing smarter. We're looking at the big picture. Those guys were faster than me and I let them go."

Sprague, renowned as a hard charger with 25 series victories, appears perfectly matched with Wyler Racing, a team formed midway through the past season and veteran crew chief Tony Furr. The duo logged a fourth-place finish at Gateway -- their third top five this season -- and overcame handling and transmission woes in the process.

That has Sprague all smiles.

"I'm proud of these Wyler Racing team guys because we battled a lot of obstacles," he said. "I think this is a sign that we are getting better and better every week, and it won't be long until we find Victory Lane."

NEWS AND NOTES, PART II

Crafton leads NASCAR Day Challenge ... Employees of the top company in North Carolina's NASCAR Day Corporate Challenge will serve as honorary crew chiefs for Matt Crafton (No. 88 Menards/Energizer Chevrolet) during the May 19 Quaker Steak & Lube 200 at Lowe's Motor Speedway. The winning firm will be drawn from the first 10 companies to sell 500 NASCAR Day pins. All 10 finalists will receive two tickets to the race, a VIP tour for two and a meet and greet with Crafton among other prizes.

"NASCAR Day has received a great response from business communities across the state since we launched NASCAR Day, and we want to continue that momentum while also educating those companies not familiar with the program," said Sandy Marshall, executive director of The NASCAR Foundation. "NASCAR Day gives organizations a fun way to celebrate the spirit of NASCAR at work, while also contributing to some great charitable initiatives that help so many in need."

Each truck will carry a NASCAR Day decal on its B post during the Lowe's event.

Interest grows in Craftsman for a Cure ... Race fans will have the opportunity to meet, race or even have dinner with some of their favorite NASCAR drivers during this month's Craftsman For a Cure event. Among those participating -- in addition to Bobby Hamilton, Bobby Hamilton Jr. and up to a dozen NASCAR Craftsman Truck competitors -- are NASCAR NEXTEL Cup Series drivers Ken Schrader, Ryan Newman, Kyle Petty, Kenny Wallace and Michael Waltrip and former champion and FOX announcer Darrell Waltrip. The event will be held from 5 to 9 p.m. Tuesday, May 23 at the NASCAR SpeedPark in Concord (N.C.) Mills near Lowe's Motor Speedway. Funds raised support the American Cancer Society Relay for Life and the Victory Junction Gang Camp. Tickets for Craftsman For a Cure are available by calling 866-227-3264. Tickets are limited and will be sold on a first come, first serve basis. Charting the owner standings' top 30 ... Two in and two out describes the continuing drama as to which teams will gain guaranteed starting positions by virtue of ranking among the top 30 in championship owner standings. Solid performances by Kraig Kinser (17th) and Chad McCumbee (11th) moved David Dollar (No. 46 Centrix Auto Finance Chevrolet) and Dave Malcolmson (No. 06 MRD Motorsports Chevrolet) from 31st to 26th and 33rd to 30th, respectively. Dropped from the top 30 were Bill Davis's No. 22 Waste Management Toyota driven by Bill Lester and Hamilton's No. 4 Dodge Motorsports Dodge of Timothy Peters. With just 44 points covering positions 29 through 35, the drama is certain to continue.

ETC. ... Toyota trucks finished first through fifth at Gateway International Raceway marking the first time the manufacturer swept the top five since joining the NASCAR Craftsman Truck Series in 2004. ... Bodine is the 24th different driver to lead the series point standings. Three former champions with a total of five titles occupy top-10 positions: Musgrave, Sprague and seventh-place Mike Bliss (No. 16 U.S. Graphix Chevrolet). ... Inclement weather cancelled Budweiser Pole qualifying at Gateway where the field was set via the series rule book. David Ragan (No. 6 Scotts Ford) was awarded the No. 1 starting position by virtue of Jack Roush's status in the truck owner standings. The last time the field was set without time trials was Aug. 5, 2005 at Indianapolis Raceway Park. ... A Gateway record 13 cautions consuming 50 laps resulted in the slowest of nine races at the 1.25-mile track. Winner Bodine averaged 84.966 mph. ... Justin Martz (No. 07 www.justinmartz.com Chevrolet) made his debut at Gateway. The first series starter from the state of Montana finished 20th. ... Aric Almirola (No. 75 Spears Manufacturing Chevrolet) finished 10th to end Erik Darnell's (No. 99 Simply Wow Ford) four-race lock on Raybestos Rookie of the Race honors. He climbed to second in award standings, 13 behind Darnell, who suffered his first DNF of the year and dropped out of the overall top-10 rankings.

IN THE LOOP
Johnny Benson (No. 23 Newbold Toyota Toyota) solidified his position among the top 10 while Bobby Hamilton Jr. (No. 18 Fastenal Dodge) made his first appearance of the season following the Ram Tough 200. Both drivers have proved to be fast when it counts. Benson is the series' leading Closer with 11 positions improved during the last 10 percent of the five races -- an average of 2.2. Hamilton is second best in the category with nine and 1.8. Mark Martin (No. 6 Scotts Ford) didn't compete in the race at Gateway but continues to hold the season's best Driver Rating of 138.1. Bodine, 120.9 and Musgrave, 112.9 are next best.

Fast Facts

What: Quaker Steak & Lube 200 (Race 6 of 25).

Where: Lowe's Motor Speedway, Concord, N.C.

When: 8:45 p.m. ET Friday, May 19.

Track layout: 1.5 -mile banked, paved.
Race length: 200 miles/134 laps.

Posted awards: $524,098.

TV: SPEED Channel, 8:45 p.m. ET.
Radio: MRN, XM Satellite.

2005 winner: Kyle Busch.
2005 polesitter: Mike Skinner.

Top 10 drivers: 1.Todd Bodine 852. 2. Ted Musgrave 840. 3. David Reutimann 746. 4. Mark Martin 720. 5. Jack Sprague 704. 6. David Starr 698. 7. Mike Bliss 682. 8. Johnny Benson 661. 9. Bobby Hamilton Jr. 639. 10. Terry Cook.

Pre-race schedule (all times local): Friday -- Practice 9:15 a.m. -- 10:15 a.m. Rookie Practice 10:20 a.m. -- 10:45 a.m. Final Practice 10:50 a.m. to 11:50 a.m. Qualifying 4:15 p.m. Trucks impounded after qualifying.

-nascar-

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About this article
Series NASCAR Truck
Drivers Bobby Hamilton , Darrell Waltrip , Michael Waltrip , Todd Bodine , Mike Skinner , Kyle Petty , David Starr , Kenny Wallace , Ryan Newman , Bobby Hamilton Jr. , Johnny Benson , Ted Musgrave , Jack Sprague , Terry Cook , Matt Crafton , Bill Lester , Mike Bliss , David Reutimann , Jack Roush , Kraig Kinser , David Ragan , Timothy Peters , Aric Almirola , Erik Darnell , Chad McCumbee , Kyle Busch , Mark Martin